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Oh-Taisho review (long)

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Restaurants & Bars

Oh-Taisho review (long)

Midtown Jimmy | Aug 31, 2003 06:15 PM

Oh-Taisho is a festive place to eat and features the sort of uncommon Japanese small dishes that fall into the same niche as Go and Typhoon--St. Marks’ Japanese Eclectic. Strangely enough, as most people have noted on the board, the yakitori is the worst thing on the menu. The friendly chef who is behind the yakitori bar, and whose image the menu is designed around as if he was some sort of local legend (he looks like the Kevin Smith character in those “Clerks” movies), just doesn’t make good yakitori by any standard.
A friend and I ate there Saturday. You can order a wide variety of food on skewers, or order one of the four combinations (presumedly with their best/most popular selections). We ordered the “B” combination, because it was the only one of the four that didn’t include gizzard, skin, other-parts of chicken we don’t dig. The “B” comes with 2 skewers of scallion, 2 of chicken meatball, 2 of beef, and 2 of chicken. At the old Oh-Taisho location, two storefronts West, over the years I’ve always found the meat to be burnt or raw--sometimes both on the same skewer. Not so here, but not any better. The beef was chewy and tough. The chicken was stringy and dry. The scallion was mild and uninteresting. The one winner is the chicken meatball. Moist and flavorful, they remind one of a chicken meatloaf, and they are the only one of the selections that seems to bring out the yakitori sauce’s flavor.
Speaking of which, one of the main downfalls of Oh-Taisho’s yakitori is the sauce. This is not the thick, flavorful glaze you will get at almost any Japanese restaurant. It’s thin and lackluster. And they barely put any on the skewers. I could understand this if they didn’t want to cover up any complex flavors of the grilling, but the grilling here imparts no character.
The other dishes, as I noted, are much better. We had an order of batter-fried fishcakes filled with cheese. This is similar to a good dish at Typhoon down the block, but the ratio of cheese to fishcake, and the size of the portions, are better at Oh-Taisho.
Then we had an order of kurobuta sausages. Imagine cocktail weenies from a deli served with mustard on the side--no great shakes. My friend said it reminded her of Kelly Dogs from her youth in Connecticut (a cross between a hot dog and a kilbasa). The best part was when half of a sausage I was trying to pick up with my chopsticks hit an NYU student in the sandal and handbag.
After the yakitori combo left us hungry, we ordered some okonomiyaki. This was more like the cabbage-type from Odafuku on 9th than the eye-opening yakitori-based Dynamite-miyaki at Go or the delicious kitchen-sink, rice-based one at Typhoon . It's an immense two-inch-high slab of battered cabbage with some variety of sea-food and pork on top drowned in bonito flakes. Even though it was latticed with mayo, no heap of kewpie mayo and mustard were provided on the side, which it could have used.
I think Oh-Taisho is fun, and the staff is nice, but for $30 I’d go elsewhere, especially because the main draw, the yakitori, isn’t good. A wider, weirder assortment of Japanese cuisine can be had for less at Typhoon, further east on 8th. And a better treatment of the standards can be had across the street at Go.

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